by Iyna Bort Caruso
This spring, a Greek Revival townhouse went on the market in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., for $18 million. It has 11 bedrooms, 11 fireplaces, a wine cellar and a famous former tenant — Truman Capote. The author wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s while renting a basement apartment there, and the cachet associated with the one-time inhabitant adds sheen to an already illustrious listing.
Potentially quite a bit, according to Jan Milligan of Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenwich, Conn. Celebrated figures can increase a property’s value. In one instance, Milligan notes a home in her area sold at a 30% premium because of the owner’s fame. “It was a very prestigious name that made a real statement,” she says. Higher visibility, however, doesn’t always translate into higher values. “Ultimately, a property’s worth is still determined by factors such as location, quality and design.”
Greenwich is less than an hour from New York City and the territory, which ranges from horse country to waterfront estates, attracts professional athletes, film actors, recording artists, entertainers and network news correspondents. “They like it here because people respect their privacy. They feel comfortable walking around town,” Milligan says.
Understandably, many homeowners of note prefer to keep their identities under the radar when putting their houses on the market, working stealthily through attorneys or other third-party representatives. Yet despite their best efforts, news often finds its way into social columns and real estate blogs.
That was the case involving the one-time home of actress Lee Remick. She died in 1991 and her husband, the British film producer Kip Gowans, eventually put the house up for sale. Jack Largay of Sotheby’s International Realty in Osterville, Mass., represented the property, which closed in June for $4.5 million. Largay says no advertising of the Georgian Colonial home was linked to the actress, but when an article appeared in a local newspaper tying Remick to the home, it made the phone ring.
In the end it was not the Remick connection that sold the home. The individual who purchased it had an emotional attachment to the house that had everything to do with family and little to do with celebrity: the home had once belonged to his grandfather.